We are a month away from the return of the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour after two years away due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
As every major sport in existence was soon shut down, the 2020 Bathurst 12 Hour in February that year was arguably one of the last ‘normal' pre-COVID events.
Australia's GT endurance classic couldn't take place in 2021 altogether and after a few date changes the 2022 edition is bearing down on us across May 13-15, more than two years since its last running.
But it's different. And when something is a little different to what we're used to, it's easy for the negatives to encrust the surface.
Yesterday's announcement that Craft-Bamboo Racing is the second international team to confirm an entry was a reminder of a bitter pill for fans to swallow.
The reality is the event will have a much tighter focus this year with regards to the GT3 field and international presence, but why the high expectations?
Sure, we are used to nearly 30 outstanding GT3 machines blasting around the track with all-pro lineups, but a lot has changed in the world.
Making the trek to Australia is far from cheap, and the exercise is far more logistically difficult for internationals with the May date slot.
Long story short, the original February date was pushed out given the postponed Kyalami Intercontinental GT Challenge finale last season and the lingering uncertainty around travel restrictions.
While Kyalami did still run in February 2022 to finally end the 2021 season, meaning Bathurst couldn't have run anyway, it's understood the international interest didn't carry over when the Mount Panorama race was moved to May.
Among a number of factors, this is largely down to a race all the way in Australia being in such close proximity to the European sportscar racing season. In fact, there is a direct clash with GT World Challenge Europe competing that weekend at Magny-Cours.
That's why the early February slot works so well for the 12 Hour. And it looks like we will be going back to that next year. Big ‘phew'.
It's important we appreciate what we have in the 12 Hour this year, even though it might not be what we're used to.
As a motorsport community we need to be grateful to the investments being made by all parties to make the event happen at all.
Organisers have gone out of their way to tweak the rules and drum up participation, and as entries surface we will get a better idea if this has worked or not.
I know we all hope so, but for local teams that are eligible to compete but aren't, why wouldn't you go out of your way to show support for this event given the tough spot it's in?
Despite the circumstances, organisers, volunteers, sponsors, teams, drivers, broadcasters, vendors and fans are still tipping in to make the race as good as it can be.
The narrative of ‘where are the internationals' is over. That ship has sailed, for this year at least. We are lucky there is still a race on, but here is also the chance to experience something unique – more Australian flavour to a world-class event.
Everyone's favourite pieces of the Bathurst 12 Hour puzzle are still there; it's still a full day of endurance racing at the Mountain, there are still GT3 cars, we get even more darkness running at the start.
Not only that, but the event still has its position of IGTC season-opener and the fact Stephane Ratel and his team have committed wholeheartedly to that point reflects the status.
The Bathurst 12 Hour and for all it represents is in our backyard. Proud moment.
I mean, what race – at Mount Panorama to add – starts in the dark and runs for 12 hours through sunrise and usually ends in a fairytale or utter madness of some sort? Come on.